Last year Jenny Stock won our Big Shot photography competition with a stunning shot of a moray eel – her prize was a liveaboard trip aboard the Belize Aggressor III. Here’s her report with a great set of images…
What an amazing week’s diving. Fascinating animals, great reef, amazing crew and brilliant dive buddies.
Among the marine stars was the Caribbean reef shark. On some sites (Angel Fish Wall springs to mind) they looped repeatedly around our group as we navigated the dive. When sharks are making repetitive passes like this, I like to find an attractive piece of reef, line up my camera and wait for the next passing shark. The key is to move as little as possible and if you’re lucky, the shark will swim right through your chosen vista.
The Nassau groupers were just as friendly, one followed me so intently I thought I was going to have to book it a plane ticket home with me. When blessed with such a poser, it’s time to get shooting!
While exploring the reef we saw many other incredible animals, including a gorgeous queen triggerfish, long snout seahorse, spotted eagle ray and many peacock flounders. Night dives delivered strikingly beautiful creatures – Caribbean octopuses, huge lobsters and vivid squid. Squid are exceptionally reflective so the most effective images are produced by slightly turning down your strobes so as not to over-expose their pretty highlights.
The dive site Front Porch yielded the white-spotted toadfish. These brown fish with white markings are endemic to Belize and you could hear their bizarre grunting noises from a distance. This made finding these creatures a fun treasure hunt with the dive guides. Identified as vulnerable on the IUCN Red List of endangered species, they are threatened by agricultural and forestry effluents. They nestle in tiny caves, so photographically it’s difficult to separate them from their background. I found a tight portrait shot was the best solution to tackle this subject.
Nudibranch in the Caribbean are far smaller than their Indo-Pacific cousins, and ideally, you want to look for them while shallow shore diving. This wasn’t an option for me so I was delighted when a guide found me an alternative in the form of a lovely lettuce sea slug. These marine gastropod molluscs are incredibly photogenic with their colourful curly leaf-like parapodia.
The week’s schedule included a dive into the iconic Blue Hole. This giant marine sinkhole plummets to 125 metres/400 feet. The crew will take you down to 40 metres/130 feet to get your slice of nitrogen narcosis. There was also a half-day land excursion to Half Moon Caye, the first nature reserve established in Belize and a wildlife protection haven for red-footed booby birds.
The boat has a capacity of 18 guests and ours was full – but with only six dedicated photographers onboard there was plentiful space for camera equipment. We made good use of the Aggressor’s photography station and its two-tiered table and recharging station. I brought my own dive equipment, but it’s available to hire on board. When I had any problem the crew were fantastic at helping me.
Photography aside, the crew went to great lengths to ensure everyone aboard had a fun experience. I am used to photography trips that are quite serious (some would even say ‘dry’ – if that’s possible while diving…) but not on the Belize Aggressor III with its holiday atmosphere.
Students who passed their Advance Course graduated with an unforgettable ‘caking’ (eggs and flour dumped on their head) while we all cheered them on. Those who participated in every dive of the trip won an ‘iron diver’ medal (Captain Ken, the boat’s master, judged that I still qualified even though I accidentally forgot to remove my camera’s lens cap for an entire dive – and my medal now hangs on my wall).
The food was great – we had an entertaining ‘robes and ribs’ night which was a big hit and the chefs even served a homemade cheesecake that was so delicious I had to request the recipe.
Finally, back ashore, the last night saw a celebratory party lubricated with free-flowing beer and spirits. I was lucky to share this trip with other guests on the boat who were adorable; after we departed we all contributed to a shared online photo album that recalls our Belize adventure. Go team!
Finally, I must say a massive thank you to the Belize Aggressor III crew for having me on board and looking after me so well!